Zwei Reiter am Strand nach links by Max Liebermann comes from the collection of David Friedmann (1857-1942), who is its first recorded owner. Friedmann made his fortune in brick production in Silesia, then part of Germany, in partnership with his younger brother Siegmund. Friedmann was passionate about art and put together a collection including works by Gustave Courbet, Camille Pissarro and Jean-François Raffaëlli, as well as paintings by Jozef Israëls, Walter Leistikow and Max Liebermann.
In 1882 he married Laura Friedmann and the following year their daughter Charlotte was born. The family moved to Berlin between 1903 and 1921 and David made a successful career in real estate there, and later moved to Breslau where he took over his father-in-law’s business. David Friedmann and his family spent their summers at the grand Neues Schloss on their estate at Grossburg (now Borek Strzeliński in Poland) and the winters in an elegant villa on Ahornallee in Breslau.
David Friedmann was subject to increasing persecution as the 1930s wore on; in 1937 he sold his Grossburg estate and in November 1938 was obliged to sell the Haltauf estate, including his father-in-law’s hunting lodge, in order to raise the funds to survive. In 1941 he was forced to leave his Breslau villa and to move to more humble accommodation on Akazienallee, where he died in February 1942. His daughter Charlotte was executed in Auschwitz in October 1942.
According to Friedmann’s great-nephew, Zwei Reiter am Strand was still hanging in the conservatory of his Breslau home in November 1938. In 1939 the painting was appraised for the Nazi authorities as Jewish owned property at a value of less than 100 Reichsmarks. In July 1942, four months after David Friedmann’s death, the Liebermann was sold by the Nazi authorities with the auctioneer Hermann Petschel in Breslau; it was acquired for 1,600 Reichsmarks by Dr Müller Hofstede and placed in store in his museum. Hofstede had already been commissioned by Hildebrandt Gurlitt to look out for works by Max Liebermann and wrote offering him Zwei Reiter am Strand in August 1942. Dr Gurlitt seems to have bought the work sometime later that year.
In the autumn of 2013, the news broke that a previously almost unknown private collection of more than 1,200 Impressionist, Expressionist and modern works of art had been discovered in an apartment in an upmarket district of Munich. What followed was even more sensational: the collection belonged to Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of Hildebrand Gurlitt, and the suspicion was that it had been passed down from father to son. This proved to be the case and, alongside a number of other well-documented works that are known to have been confiscated from Jewish collectors and dealers during the Third Reich, David Friedmann’s Liebermann painting was discovered in the collection. Cornelius Gurlitt died in 2014, having committed to returning those works from his collection that were demonstrably lost by Jewish collectors during the Nazi era and not restituted after World War Two. The Liebermann was finally returned to the Friedmann heirs in May 2015.